TripAdvisor has timed its confirmation of a relaunch and redesign with its first quarter earnings and is planning to spend $70-$80 million this year on the first phase of a TV brand campaign.
In his prepared remarks, CEO Steve Kaufer said:
“In a few weeks, we are excited to launch a simplified, more engaging hotel shopping experience, including a cleaner interface and a significant emphasis on helping users find and book the best hotels at the lowest prices.”
In a briefing in advance of the earnings release, TripAdvisor’s senior vice president for product Adam Medros talked through the process of the redesign.
The new look and functions are being driven by the business’s belief that it is “a competitor of one” and is uniquely positioned “to bring all the pieces together – research and planning, the price comparison, the booking and then the trip itself,” Medros noted.
In practical terms, this has prompted a “reweighting” and “de-emphasising” of certain familiar features, but hotels still dominate because “consumers anchor their trip on the hotel and build around it”.
Price becomes even more prominent, although there is an emphasis on finding the right hotel for the customer as much as the actual cost. In order to free up screen real estate to give the price more space on the screen, the reviews of the hotel are based around snippets. Its thinking is that at this stage users do not need to be told that TripAdvisor has detailed reviews and will find them if they want them.
“We are prioritising our ‘best value index’ in the new design,” he said, “because it is smart, more intelligence and learns about the traveller from their previous interactions. A one-size-fits-all sort doesn’t work.”
The team were insistent that, when it comes to the actual booking, it is “agnostic” about whether the user converts via Instant Booking or via a metasearch or OTA partner.
Other new features include a MyTrips channel, which stores the user’s searches. Jeff Chow, vice president of product, customer experience at TripAdvisor, hinted that this new feature was one of the biggest engineering challenges.
“Travel is the hardest vertical to personalize, because every trip is different. If you’re visiting New York for the fifth time, and we recommend the Statue of Liberty rather than somewhere off the beaten track, we’re probably doing something wrong. We’re using keyword signals and machine learning to build up the insights so we can get this context right.”
While there is a lot in the redesign which is complicated, requiring “the engine to be taken apart and rebuilt”, there are some fairly basic improvements as well. The calendar search function is consistent across product channels, while the interface for hotel search and vacation rental search is now the same.